Firebombing of home in Germany kills three Turks 'Heil Hitler,' say anonymous callers as woman and two young girls die

November 24, 1992|By Carl Schoettler | Carl Schoettler,Berlin Bureau

BERLIN -- The call to the police began and ended with the words "Heil Hitler," and already a Turkish woman and two young girls were dying.

The worst attack on foreigners since Germany was reunited three years ago began before dawn yesterday in the small town of Moelln in Schleswig-Holstein in northern Germany.

Attackers hurled Molotov cocktails at one house where Turks lived and similarly firebombed another before police received anonymous calls that claimed responsibility and used the Nazi salute.

The Turkish woman, 50, her 14-year-old niece and a 10-year-old girl died. Nine other Turks were injured.

The woman had lived peacefully in Moelln for 20 years. The 10-year-old girl, also of Turkish nationality, was born in Moelln.

Among those reported injured were an 82-year-old woman, a 9-month-old baby and a girl who broke both her legs jumping from an upstairs window.

Chancellor Helmut Kohl and opposition leader Bjorn Engholm, who met yesterday to try to hammer out a new law on political asylum, appeared before television cameras to vow early arrests and stiff punishment.

Alexander von Stahl, the chief federal prosecutor, said that in two claims of responsibility, anonymous telephone callers had yelled the banned Nazi salute, "Heil Hitler."

"This indicates that the unidentified criminals wanted to use their crime to help restore a Nazi dictatorship in Germany," the prosecutor said in a written statement, his most forceful since rightist attacks began in August.

M. Turgut Cakmakoglu, president of the 300,000-strong Turkish community in Berlin, said the attack introduced a new dimension of systematic violence. Attacks in the past were spontaneous, he said. This was planned.

"They had the aim to kill the people," he said.

He complained during an interview that the "endless" discussion of asylum rights was one of the reasons for anti-foreigner violence.

"No party has a conception of what to do," he said.

He called for foreigners to obtain voting rights after three years in Germany, for equality of rights between Germans and non-Germans, and for tougher penalties for racist crimes.

The three deaths in the firebombing sparked anti-Nazi marches and demonstrations across Germany. Some 10,000 people were said to have joined in.

Sixteen people have been killed this year in extremist attacks, five in the past week, four over the weekend. There already have been 1,566 attacks against foreigners this year, compared with 1,483 "terrorist" acts of all kinds last year.

The states with the most number of attacks are not in east Germany but in the west: North Rhine/Westphalia, Germany's biggest industrial state, and Baden-Wurttemberg, a stronghold of the right-wing Republicans party.

On Sunday, two members of the National Front, a right-wing extremist party, were charged with killing a man Nov. 14 because they thought he was Jewish.

During what appears to have been a drunken political quarrel in Wuppertal, a 54-year-old butcher had called the two skinheads "Nazi pigs." They called him a Jew, stomped him almost to death, set him afire with "schnapps" and then dumped him across the border in Holland to die.

Ignatz Bubis, the leader of the German Jewish community, said the man was not Jewish. But, he said, the violence is "terrible."

Jewish cemeteries and monuments in many parts of Germany have been vandalized and besmirched with swastikas and neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic slogans.

A Holocaust memorial in Berlin was damaged by an explosion and, in firebombing that aroused a national reaction, the barracks that held Jewish prisoners at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp was destroyed.

Mr. Bubis charged that the government was still not using its full power to quell right-wing violence. He particularly targeted judges who let extremists off with minimum penalties.

The German Jewish community is not "exactly" afraid, he said. But some Jews are beginning to wonder if they should stay in Germany.

"Nobody has left yet," he said. "A few are thinking of it.

"You know," he said, "it's not a Jewish problem. It's a problem for non-Jewish people."

In other weekend incidents, neo-Nazi skinheads and radical anarchists battled with baseball bats and hatchets in a half-dozen east German cities. A half-dozen people were wounded. Thirteen people were arrested in Brandenburg.

At midnight Saturday, a 27-year-old leftist activist who had been a dissident in Communist East Germany was killed by a knife-wielding neo-Nazi in a clash at an East Berlin subway stop.

The clashes between leftists and rightists add fuel to the debate among German commentators, some of whom are drawing parallels between the current violence and the battles between Communists and Nazis in the 1920s. The conflicts helped bring about the collapse of the Weimar democracy and the rise of Adolf Hitler.

The magazine Stern said the head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution saw a "direct parallel" with the Weimar Republic.

One of the publishers of the respected newspaper Die Zeit said in a front-page article that no comparison was possible: Germans had proven their sense of democracy.

But there was no doubt that the rise of the right has been dramatic.

Bild am Sontag, a simultaneously sensational and conservative newspaper, said government figures showed the number of right-wing extremists in Germany increased from 150 last year to 37,700 this year.

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